10 Apr 98

A High Station in Life

A High Station in Life

The Smith and Ninth Street stop on the F and G lines is the highest subway stop in the city. It rises above the Gowanus canal like a cross between a bridge and a skeleton. If it collapses soon, which seems likely, it will collapse with a splash. From its platform, you can see Manhattan's architectural behemoths, and in the other direction, the Statue of Liberty.

Both up escalators are usually broken, while the down escalators chug merrily towards gravity. Trudging up, someone behind me usually carps, "I'm gonna write a letter to fuckin' Mayor Guliani, tell him what he can do with this fuckin' station."

The industrial paint looks like it's caught a 14th-century skin disease. And the inside of the station dumps fluids even when it's not raining. Mysterious colored puddles appear everywhere on damp days. Odd, calcified stalactites hang from the girders.

Outside the base of the station someone has written two large, orange phrases: "I wish I were a black girl," and "Return me to the mystery."

Sometimes concrete drops in chunks from the girders, and emergency transit teams come in plastic overalls, wielding scrapers and patch kits. At first, entering with my Metrocard, I felt excited to see the emergency transit vans. I expected drama on the tracks, a chance for rubbernecking. But usually they come to fix the concrete, or the escalators. The emergency workers in their white plastic coats are as much a part of the station as the surly token clerks and the Nation of Islam guy selling "The Final Call" newspaper.

The station is always in sight; the tracks run past my window. As I typed this entry, I watched three or four trains pass, heading deeper into Brooklyn. They give off a little roar as they go by. Even more, when I'm spread out on my bed in the quiet, I feel them. My whole building rocks, a quick rattle like the fridge turning on, then three seconds of shivering floorboards.

Perhaps this explains the corners in my apartment, the way the doors don't square into their frames, and the two inch difference in floor height, over a span of ten feet. At first the shaking drove me nuts, but in the last few months, the rattling has become familiar. To be honest, when I end up in other beds, I miss it.




Ftrain.com is the website of Paul Ford and his pseudonyms. It is showing its age. I'm rewriting the code but it's taking some time.


There is a Facebook group.


You will regret following me on Twitter here.


Enter your email address:

A TinyLetter Email Newsletter

About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

If you have any questions for me, I am very accessible by email. You can email me at ford@ftrain.com and ask me things and I will try to answer. Especially if you want to clarify something or write something critical. I am glad to clarify things so that you can disagree more effectively.


Syndicate: RSS1.0, RSS2.0
Links: RSS1.0, RSS2.0


© 1974-2011 Paul Ford


@20, by Paul Ford. Not any kind of eulogy, thanks. And no header image, either. (October 15)

Recent Offsite Work: Code and Prose. As a hobby I write. (January 14)

Rotary Dial. (August 21)

10 Timeframes. (June 20)

Facebook and Instagram: When Your Favorite App Sells Out. (April 10)

Why I Am Leaving the People of the Red Valley. (April 7)

Welcome to the Company. (September 21)

“Facebook and the Epiphanator: An End to Endings?”. Forgot to tell you about this. (July 20)

“The Age of Mechanical Reproduction”. An essay for TheMorningNews.org. (July 11)

Woods+. People call me a lot and say: What is this new thing? You're a nerd. Explain it immediately. (July 10)

Reading Tonight. Reading! (May 25)

Recorded Entertainment #2, by Paul Ford. (May 18)

Recorded Entertainment #1, by Paul Ford. (May 17)

Nanolaw with Daughter. Why privacy mattered. (May 16)

0h30m w/Photoshop, by Paul Ford. It's immediately clear to me now that I'm writing again that I need to come up with some new forms in order to have fun here—so that I can get a rhythm and know what I'm doing. One thing that works for me are time limits; pencils up, pencils down. So: Fridays, write for 30 minutes; edit for 20 minutes max; and go whip up some images if necessary, like the big crappy hand below that's all meaningful and evocative because it's retro and zoomed-in. Post it, and leave it alone. Can I do that every Friday? Yes! Will I? Maybe! But I crave that simple continuity. For today, for absolutely no reason other than that it came unbidden into my brain, the subject will be Photoshop. (Do we have a process? We have a process. It is 11:39 and...) (May 13)

That Shaggy Feeling. Soon, orphans. (May 12)

Antilunchism, by Paul Ford. Snack trams. (May 11)

Tickler File Forever, by Paul Ford. I'll have no one to blame but future me. (May 10)

Time's Inverted Index, by Paul Ford. (1) When robots write history we can get in trouble with our past selves. (2) Search-generated, "false" chrestomathies and the historical fallacy. (May 9)

Bantha Tracks. (May 5)

Tables of Contents